Bespoke Shoes Unlaced – a shoemaker's blog

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Intensive Shoemaking Course - Day 6

Well here we are, half way through already and our lovely students are going great guns. With the welting almost done, it feels like we are at the peak of the difficulty. It is a long and gentle  downhill run from here. There may be a few undulations here and there, but the hardest parts are done.

It is a peculiar feature of the course that the most challenging things all come in the first week - but that is shoemaking, ladies and gents.

Here are a few images of what we did this morning.

Beating The Welt


Flattening The welt

Next up is making the shanks, getting the forepart filled and then it is soles. Once they get those on, the shoes really begin to look like shoes and, with the end in sight, the students feel really proud of what they have done. It's a really fulfilling experience!

Checking The Shape Of The Filler

Rasping The Cork

Nails In The Sole

Checking The Welts

Well, that all went swimmingly. Another productive day. Well done to everyone. Soles on Monday after a well earned day off.

Until next time, happy shoemaking!

Friday, 11 January 2013

A strong resolve and a call for help!

It's a new year and I don't know about you, but I've kept my New Year's resolutions simple this year - to get out and see our friends more...and to be more creative and experimental as a shoemaker/designer.

But others have made more life-changing resolutions. As you will have read, week one of our January intensive course is well under way but what you didn't know is that virtually the whole class are resolved to become shoemakers!

They are so drawn to the craft, that they have taken two weeks out of very busy lives - and travelled from as far afield as Iceland, Italy, Spain and the US - to sit down with us and learn the basics. It is an enormous responsibility and we hope that they will leave us next week wiser about the reality of life as a handsewn shoemaker, and still enthused and determined to continue making.  

We will keep you posted on how they do next week, but in the mean time one of the biggest questions for them is "what will they do after the course?"

An apprenticeship is the obvious choice, but these are hard to come by. The majority of handsewn shoemakers are small businesses and so taking on an apprentice is a massive commitment of time, money and materials...and there is no guarantee that the apprentice will stay when their time is up.

Here in the UK, The Queen Elizabeth Scholarship is one organisation to champion craft studies (I owe it everything as it funded my apprenticeship), but what of elsewhere in the world?

We want to help. If you have any information about shoemakers seeking apprentices, manufacturers who use handsewn workers and organisations, awards or grants that could help to fund aspiring shoemakers, wherever you are in the world, please email us. Perhaps together we can create an on line resource for all aspiring shoemakers?

Many thanks and until next week's update on the course, happy shoemaking.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Shoemaking Course January 2013, Days 1 - 3

Hello one and all. Monday saw the start of our first intensive shoemaking course of 2013 and also the second term of our weekly shoemaking course. Eleven hours class time for one student who is doing both!

We have a full class of seven, with students from England, Italy, Spain and Iceland. A very capable class, they have motored through the first three days with great success (and speed).

The first day saw them sharpening knives, blocking the insoles and preparing stiffeners/toe puffs.

Day two was spent preparing the insole, skiving stiffs/toe puffs and making threads.

Today saw them lasting.

So all in all, I am impressed!

Tomorrow will see us starting to welt the shoes which is a first I think on Day 4.

Here are a few shots of the students in action. Hopefully, it will whet your appetite and spur you on to doing a course with us.

The Classroom

Skiving a Toe Puff

Lasting a Toe Puff

Trimming The Excess Leather

Lasting The Toe Puff

Look out for further posts about their progress during this week and next.

Until then, happy shoemaking.